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Zimbabwe Opposition to Proceed with Challenge to Mugabe Electoral Victory - 2003-02-23

Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change says it will not drop its court challenge to last year's re-election of President Robert Mugabe. Nigeria suggested the opposition drop its objection as a step toward resuming talks with the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The Movement for Democratic Change council said it would only consider withdrawing its legal challenge if "a timetable for the restoration of legitimacy" could be agreed.

The Zimbabwe opposition party was responding to a request made by Nigerian President Olusegun Abasanjo.

Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the only way out of the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe would be to establish a transitional authority. He said it should serve until a new presidential election can be held with international supervision.

Lawyers representing the Movement for Democratic Change said they have gathered impressive evidence to back up the charge that the election last March had been massively rigged.

Representatives from South Africa and Nigeria described the election as legitimate. But Commonwealth and European Union observers, as well as southern African parliamentarians, said the presidential poll was neither free nor fair.

As a result, Zimbabwe was suspended from the 54-member Commonwealth of former British colonies for a year.

Nigeria and South Africa said Zimbabwe should be readmitted to the Commonwealth, and recommend that talks be resumed between the opposition and the ruling Zanu-PF.

Opposition spokesman Nyathi said no concessions can be made at a time of increased repression from the ruling party in the form of the systematic arrests and torture of Movement for Democratic Change members.